Bridge the Economic Gap Day
September 8, 2015 (Labor Day +1)
The Fight for a Living Wage Continues!!
Join us at 7:30 am, Tuesday, September 8th on your bridge. At this one hour demonstration you and people like you will be flying Universal Living Wage banners and signs all across the nation calling for real change not chump change!
Reach out and Sign Up your people to reserve a place on your bridge.
Join the Action!
Send in your photos for a 1 and 50 chance to win a digital camera for the Best Bridge the Economic Gap Day photo of 2015.
Check out the all new UniversalLivingWage.org and the national ULW calculator.
You can now calculate the ULW where you live and work.
*Note- Passage of the Universal Living Wage will end economic homelessness for over 1,000,000 people! And, it will prevent economic homelessness for all 20 million minimum wage workers.
Department of Justice Pushes Back Laws that Criminalize Homelessness
Open Letter to the City of Austin
August 18, 2015
Mayor Steve Adler
City Manager Marc Ott
PO Box 1088
Austin, TX 78767
Dear Mayor Adler and City Manager Ott,
In 1995, as the City of Austin prepared to pass the No Camping Ordinance, House the Homeless made it clear that arresting people who are homeless for sleeping in public places when full-time minimum wage workers are paid so little that they cannot afford basic housing or when there is insufficient emergency shelter beds, is in violation of the 8th amendment of the U.S. Constitution and therefore criminalizes poverty and the condition of being homeless.
Our continued efforts at the national level through our involvement with the National Coalition for the Homeless coupled with the efforts of the National Law Center on Hunger and Homelessness has resulted in the Justice Department’s issuance of the attached document in which it addresses the criminalization of homelessness when people have no alternatives but to sleep in public. Note- The City of Austin’s battle for/against the No Camping Ordinance is well chronicled in the book Looking Up at the Bottom Line: The Struggle for the Living Wage.
Presently, in the city of Austin, two things occur. The Federal Minimum Wage, currently at $7.25, is the Federal wage standard. This is well below the same government guideline (see
Secondly, the primary emergency shelter for single homeless men is the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, ARCH. The number of people experiencing homelessness in Austin has been counted in the thousands. Each night they are invited to enter a lottery every evening for the possibility of securing one of the 100 emergency beds, 20-40% of which are already allocated for case-managed occupants. A second lottery for one of a limited number of mats on the floor occurs two hours later. Failure to win a mat at the second lottery results in the applicant needing to leave the shelter to find lodging elsewhere. It is then hours later and usually dark outside, leaving the applicant to look for shelter out of doors where it is illegal to “camp,” leaving the individual subject to ticketing and then arrest for failure to pay, and subsequently to be saddled with a criminal record that only serves as a further barrier to escaping homelessness. Note- Failure historically to have a corresponding adequate number of beds has had a chilling effect on the number of those even seeking housing.
In view of the Justice Department’s statement … “that making it a crime for people who are homeless to sleep in public places, when there is insufficient shelter space in a city, unconstitutionally punishes them for being homeless.” Therefore, House the Homeless makes the following recommendation: That the No Camping Ordinance be struck down entirely and removed from the books. In the meantime, effective in the next 30 business days (October 1, 2015) that people experiencing homelessness when being turned away from any emergency shelter be logged in a permanent record book and given a receipt indicating that they have attempted to secure shelter but none was available on that date. Police officers should be instructed to not issue “No Camping” tickets to anyone producing a receipt or to anyone on any day where the ARCH or any other City of Austin based shelter has issued such receipts. The Community Court, Municipal Court and the Police Department must also be apprised on an ongoing daily basis.
Additionally, all “Quality of Life” ordinances such as the “No Sit/No Lie” ordinances should immediately come under review regarding their constitutionality.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Richard R. Troxell
CC: Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo
All City of Austin Council Members
All Public Safety Commissioners
Margot Frasier- Office of the City Monitor
Community Court Judge Michael Coffey
Community Court Administrator- Peter Valdez
Municipal Court Judge Sherry Statman
COA Police Chief Art Acevedo
COA Police Association- Howard Safir
National Coalition for the Homeless- John Parvensky
National Law Center on Hunger and Homelessness- Eric Tars
Judge Phil Sanders- retired
Gary Bledsoe- Texas NAACP
Nelson Linder- Austin NAACP
David Hall, Robert Doggett & Fred Fuchs- Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid
Jim Harrington-Texas Civil Rights Project
Austin American Statesman- Andrea Ball
Austin Chronicle- Louis Black
KUT/NPR- Joy Diaz
Follow the Money!
HUD Fires Shot Across the Bow of Cities Nationwide
HUD takes aim at cities that create barriers (Quality of Life Ordinances) that criminalize homelessness
2015 Homeless/Police Survey Results Are In!
Results and Cover Letter:
February 4, 2015
PO Box 1088
Austin, TX 78768
715 East 8th Street
Austin, TX 78701
Public Safety Commissioner
Kim Rossmo -Chair
C/O Jennifer Heatly, Administrative Assistant
Office of the Fire Chief
Austin Fire Department
4201 Ed Bluestein
Austin, TX 78721
Human Rights Commissioner
Dear City Manager Ott, Chief Acevedo, Commissioner Rossmo and Commissioner Clark:
House the Homeless Inc. is the oldest, all volunteer, action, homeless advocacy organization in the state of Texas. It was founded in Austin in 1989 with a board of directors that is comprised of no less than 60% of homeless and formerly people.
Since our inception, House the Homeless, Inc. has conducted surveys that shed light on issues that affect the lives of people experiencing homelessness. These have included work, employment, wages, disability, health, etc. This survey is focused on daily interactions with Austin police officers.
The questions arose from my daily interactions with people experiencing homelessness through my role as Director of Legal Aid for the Homeless and President/Founder of House the Homeless since 1989.
I am a US Marine, Viet Nam Veteran. I am a former volunteer fire fighter. I am a graduate of the Austin Citizen’s Police Academy. I am author of the police program; Blue Grey Task Force and creator of our nation’s Mobile Mini Police Stations. Please see my enclosed autobiography for greater detail. I mention these things to give clarity and inform the readers that I and the members of House the Homeless, Inc. have the utmost respect for the Austin Police Department and its men and women who protect our citizens.
While an undergraduate of Saint Edward’s University, I studied Statistical Survey Taking under Dr. Robert Ambrosino at the University of Texas. Our surveys are not intended to disparage anyone. The goal is to shed light on the social conditions that affect the lives of people experiencing homelessness.
Richard R. Troxell
CC: Mayor Bill Adler
Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo
All City of Austin Council Members
All Public Safety Commissioners
All Human Rights Commissioners
National Coalition for the Homeless
Protect and Serve (Survey Results)
On January 1st 2015 conducted at the 14th Annual House the Homeless Thermal Underwear Distribution Party. This survey was offered to all people experiencing homelessness in attendance.
Total 277 people responded to the Survey.
1) Male: 228 Female: 46 Transgender: 3
2) Age: 45.6
3) How long have you been homeless all together? 9.49 years
3b) How long have you been homeless in Austin, Texas? 6.24 years
4) Have you ever been told to move along by police without giving you an opportunity to comment?
Yes: 170 No: 88
People were denied an opportunity to comment before being moved along at a rate of about 2:1.
5) Has a Police Officer ever given you a ticket for sitting or lying down even though you told them you were disabled or too sick to move?
Yes:120 No 140 Note. This in violation of the City of Austin, TX, law for which Police Procedures have been written. Every police officer in the downtown area has been trained in the enforcement of the No Sit/No Lie ordinance and it’s language that brings Austin’s ordinance in compliance with the American’s With Disabilities Act, law.
6) As a Disabled person, did you always get a 30 minute warning period, before being ticketed for sitting or lying down?
Yes: 29 No: 156 N/A: 97.
This is in violation of the City of Austin, No Sit/No Lie ordinance and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Law. See #5 above.
7) Have you ever had your ID taken by police and not returned?
Yes: 92 No: 183 Approximately 1/3rd of all people surveyed had their identification permanently taken from them by the police. Note. Replacing photo ID costs time and money. These people are homeless and without money.
8) Have you ever had your things taken by police without giving you a receipt and the name of a contact person to get your things back?
Yes: 125 No: 152 A little less than half the folks answering the question reported improper impounding practices conducted by officers of the Austin Police department.
9) Did you ever get a ticket, go to court, then be told your ticket is not in the system yet and you would have to return?
Yes: 123 No: 118 N/A: 36 Half the people receiving tickets found the Community Court system which is supposedly designed to “aid” people; actually hinders their ability to change their condition of being homeless.
10) Do you feel that the police are there to help you or control you?
Help: 47 Control: 190 Both: 38 (write in) By 4 to 1, people felt that the police were not helping them, but rather controlling them. At the same time, 38 people voluntarily wrote in that the police were both helping and controlling.
General Comment: “Ticketing the homeless for sitting @ the homeless drop in center should be a crime.”
General comment: “Dear Police: Keep clearing the streets of drug users and drug dealers.”
7) Have you ever had your ID taken by police and not returned? Comment: “ 3 Times!”
8) Have you ever had your things taken by police without giving you a receipt and the name of a contact person to get your things back? Comment: “ 5 times.”
Additional person’s Comment: “ $12,000.00 tools and truck.”
Additional person’s Comment: “Lots of times.”
10) Do you feel that the police are there to help or control you? Comment: “They abuse power.”
Additional person’s Comment: “They are on a power trip!”
Additional person’s Comment: “They are looking for any excuse to shake people down for drugs or whatever and in the process are violating people’s rights.”
10) Do you feel that the police are there to help you or control you?
Comment: “Control…if you are black.”
Additional person’s Comment: “Black people.”
12/2014- The Travis County Commissioners Court Resolves
to support the campaign to end homeless by
1. encouraging the U.S. Conference of Mayors to encourage the U.S. Senate
to address the Federal Minimum Wage (FMW) and the SSI Standards
2. Supporting the 10 year phase in of the changes to index the FMW and SSI to the local cost of housing.
3. Imploring that our institutions (prisons, hospitals, foster care) Discharge No One into Homelessness
to Sign Up and Volunteer with
House the Homeless on New Year’s Day
14th Annual Thermal Underwear Party
featuring the music of the Rockin’ Gospel Project
for more information and photos from last year’s party.
Homecoming Fund Raising Event at Umlauf
House the Homeless must thank our guests, volunteers, and supporters!
We had a wonderful fund raising event albeit very cold.
We can only assume that Timothy P. Schmalz, our sculptor, sent the cold Canadian air down upon us.
Thank you to-
Emcee, Byron Webre for keeping us focused.
Keynote speaker, Fred Butler for keeping it real.
The silent auction divas! Joanna- You made the evening with all those amazing “gets.” And to our merchandisers: Joanne, Marcy, and Rachel – thank you for making silent auction look so perfect.
And of course, we must thank, Shannon Mantrom, from Leap to Success, for spearheading the entire evening.
Now to our performers-
What can I say but “THANK YOU!!!” You were ALL so wonderful.
From Chalumeau braving the cold and puckering up and playing beautifully despite the cold embouchures,
to ARCOS Dance (what TOTAL troopers!) performing that moving, haunting piece that seemed to fitting amongst the sculptures,
to Deann René and her boys rockin’ us back to the pavilion,
to Austin’s own beloved Sara Hickman bringing us home with your sentiment, heart and playfulness.
What a great way to end a magical evening.
Much love and gratitude!
Finally- Thanks to Rudy’s and Bone Spirits for feeding us and warming our spirits (yum, Irish coffee with just a touch of Fitch’s Goat Corn Whiskey
Homecoming Fund Raising Event at Umlauf
November 13th 6-9pm
November 16th 6:57am
Open Letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen
Janet Yellen, the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve, has called income inequality “one of the most disturbing trends facing the nation.”
National income inequality is a problem that is comprised of many components. House the Homeless views the Federal Minimum Wage as a major component of this problem. We are a nation of 1,000 plus economies, and yet we set a federal wage standard that embraces the concept of one size fits all. At present, it is set at $7.25 per hour. It is so low that a full-time, minimum wage worker cannot get into, and keep, basic rental housing. This is a statement repeated by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in their annual report for the past several years.
We all know that the single most expensive item in the budget of every American (housing) fluctuates across the nation, and it does not cost the same to live in Washington DC as it does to live in Harlington, Texas or Santa Cruz, California, etc. So how appropriate is this one size all fits all approach?
Because of the disparity between what our nation’s minimum wage workers are earning (federally set at $7.25 per hour), and the cost of housing locally, 3.5 million minimum wage workers will experience homelessness again this year. Ms. Yellen, you are correct, “the nation’s identity as a land of opportunity is at stake.”
It is important to realize that these minimum wage workers compromise the base of our socio-economic society. These workers are daycare workers, ditch diggers, cafeteria line workers, theater ticket takers, dry clean workers, porta-potty vacuumers, window washers, restraint workers (McDonalds), retail sales people (WalMart), data key operators, hotel/motel maids, construction laborers, janitors, bank tellers, farm workers, receptionists, nurse aids, poultry processors, agricultural workers, home care aids, garage attendants, car washers, manicurists, elder care aids, security guards, infant care workers, etc. And remarkably, they all have one thing in common; none of these jobs can be out sourced! They are the last bastion of purely home spun, at home American jobs. A person has to be on site to flip the burger and serve the child from the cafeteria line.
It only makes sense that if the stability of our economic structure at its core, is dependent upon the economic stability of these workers, we should do everything we can to stabilize their financial situations. Many businesses are operating under the false assumption that because the pool of minimum wage workers, bolstered by immigration, is basically infinite in scope, that they can continue to use people like tissue paper in less than full-time jobs, and then discard them for easy replacements. This shortsighted approach, as even Henry Ford realized, carried with it a devastating effect that resulted in exorbitant retraining costs of replacement workers.
By indexing the wage of the local cost of housing in areas about the size of counties referred to as Fair Market Rent areas by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, we ensure that if a person puts in 40 units of work, they will be able to afford basic rental housing (an efficiency apartment) including utilities, wherever that work is done throughout the United States.
In this fashion, we end economic homelessness for all people desirous and able to work and enable them to put a roof over their own heads, other than a bridge. As a result, we are able to stabilize businesses that employ minimum wage workers while saving them and tax payers tens of billions of dollars each in unused supports like food stamps, EITC, public assistance (see the 2014 Economic Policy Institute Minimum Wage Report) and retraining costs. See Looking Up at the Bottom Line for greater detail.
We urge you to urge the U.S. Congress to review this novel approach and simply tweak the Federal Minimum Wage established under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Such a response will solve the minimum wage conundrum once and for all time, prevent economic homelessness and stimulate the national housing industry by creating needed, affordable housing for workers who like Henry Ford’s employees, will then be able to afford the product that they need most.
June 2014- Richard R. Troxell attended The White House Summit on Working Families
Thanks to each of the donors and to Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid for helping send Richard to Washington to discuss the Universal Living Wage as a common sense alternative to the current one-size-fits-all approach being touted by the Administration.
Thanks for your support!
2014 Tax Day- ULW National Day of Action
Richard Troxell with ‘House the Homeless’ says businesses wind up harming themselves when they are stingy with their workers pay, they wind up hurting their business, “What we’re suggesting is embrace the living wage, they will empower these minimum wage workers to be able to sustain themselves and not be a detriment to any other business.” Listen to the interview here.
Great progress on the Homecoming Bronze Statue. Please click to see two videos of world-renowned Sculptor, Timothy Schmalz work and speak about the project.
By Richard R. Troxell
Read below or download your copy here (right click and save!)
Sue Watlov-Phillips and Professor Edgar Chan have made invaluable contributions to this effort call for the Prevention of Homelessness. This whitepaper examines homelessness in terms of poverty and specifically Livable Incomes for those who can work (Universal Living Wage) and fixing the National Supplemental Security Income (SSI system) for those who cannot work. I have created a pathway for these goals to be achieved. We have tried to stress the value of all people and all work. The positive economic benefit to business and taxpayers is emphasized.
The whitepaper also looks at the concept/tenet: Discharge No One Into Homelessness. This is the idea that at no time do we know as much about an individual as when they enter one of our institutions (i.e., Hospital, Prison, Military, Foster Care, Mental Health Facilities etc.). Therefore, we should begin to prepare for their eventual discharge into a safe housing environment immediately. This will also prevent homelessness. The whitepaper shakes out this concept by looking at a pragmatic example… the Prison Institution (from two perspectives).
An Open Letter to President Obama and the U.S. Congress
Not since 1938 following the Great Depression and the creation of the Federal Minimum Wage, FMW, has our nation had as great an opportunity to create income equality and simultaneously stabilize our small businesses.
What people do not understand is that as opposed to when I was a young lad, we now have people who work a full 40 hour a week job but, in spite of that, are becoming homeless. Incredible! The basic opportunity to chase the American Dream has vaporized. Because the FMW was never linked to any economic standard, the cost of the most expensive item in the budget of every single American, housing, has now moved beyond the reach of every hard working minimum wage worker. A full time minimum wage worker simply cannot afford a one room, efficiency/studio, apartment.
We are a nation of a thousand plus economies. Everyone knows that the cost to live in Biloxi, MS, is not the same as it is to live in Santa Cruz, CA, or Washington, D.C., or New York City. One size does not fit all whether it is $7.25 per hour or $9.00 per hour. The federal minimum wage must relate to the minimum cost of housing where a person lives! In this fashion, if a person works 40 hours of work, then that full-time, minimum wage worker will not become homeless due to economics. This will end homelessness for over 1,000,000 minimum wage workers. Think of the tax savings. Small businesses that rely on these workers may finally be able to address their start up failure rate of 64% after 4 years and 90% after 5 years by no longer having to rely on destabilized workers. Carpe Diem!
See our formula and supporting arguments at www.UniveralLivingWage.org
2013 Thermal Underwear Drive Underway
Austin residents and others are encouraged to donate winter clothing items and participate in House the Homeless’ Thermal Underwear Drive. The Thermal Underwear Drive is an annual event which has successfully raised money and clothing for people suffering from homelessness. House the Homeless Founder Richard R. Troxell — and sidekick “Homie” — spoke with Austin’s Fox 7. Please give generously.
2013 Sunrise Service
6/22/12— Women experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable. Last week Valerie Godoy, a woman experiencing homelessness, was brutally murdered in Austin. There have been no arrests. Click here to add your name to a petition to bring a “women only” shelter in Austin. UPDATE 11/19/2012: We’ve reached over 3,500 paper and digital signatures. Thank you!
House the Homeless president, Richard R. Troxell, lays out a jobs plan to put millions of Americans back to work; jumpstart the construction industry building housing for the newly-employed; stimulate the economy through a surge in consumer spending; delay, reduce, and restructure foreclosures; while at the same time reducing taxes and subsidies from the federal government to the unemployed. Impossible? No! It’s actually quite realistic. Check out the plan here.
Support to End Economic Homelessness Grows
As our campaign to put a copy of our book into the hands of each member of the U.S. Congress and all governors continues, favorable responses abound. The responding political dignitaries include:
Gov. Terry E. Branstad (IA)
Gov. Scott Walker (WI)
Gov. John W. Hickenlooper (CO)
Gov. Steven L. Beshear (KY)
Gov. Deval L. Patrick (MA)
Gov. Brian Sandoval (NV)
Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee (RI)
Gov. Bill Haslam (TN)
Gov. Gary R. Herbert (UT)
Gov. Sean Parnell (AK)
Gov. Rick Snyder (MI)
Sen. Kelly A. Ayotte (NH)
Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (ME)
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (HI)
Sen. Joe Manchin lll (WV)
Sen. Michael B. Enzi (WY)
Sen. Marco Rubio (FL)
Sen. Bob Corker (TN)
Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN)
Rep. Ed Whitfield (KY)
Rep. Spencer Bachus (AL)
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (OH)
Rep. James Lankford (OK)
Rep. Lamar Smith (TX)
Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez (TX)
Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX)
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT)
Rep. Mo Brooks (AL)
You can see more letters of support here.
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Richard R. Troxell here. As many of you know, I’ve been working on a book about my life’s work. I have great news, Looking Up At The Bottom Line: The Struggle For The Living Wage! was released on Friday, October 1st, 2010. It not only tells my story and the story of the working poor; but most importantly, it launches the platform for the Universal Living Wage (ULW).
Enactment of the Universal Living Wage will end Homelessness for over 1,000,000 minimum wage workers. At the same time, it will prevent economic homelessness for all 10.1 million minimum wage workers.
You can buy my book on Amazon right here. All proceeds go to support efforts to end economic homelessness.
My book is an intense personal, political, and educational guide through the last 30 years of homelessness in America. I returned from Viet Nam confused and homeless. Wandering across America, I landed in Philadelphia. I was lucky. I met Max Weiner, a pioneer in consumer activism. After several years of pain, he changed my life.
My early years as an advocate for consumer’s rights and fighting foreclosures got me off the streets and led me to a life-long career with Legal Aid. I began refurbishing abandoned houses only to have them threatened by a declining economy and drug lords. So, I fought for and created Mobile Mini-Police Stations, which saved my neighborhood and are still in use today in several cities. Life taught me that the solutions to hard problems lie in the problems themselves.
In 1989, I founded the non-profit House the Homeless (HtH). I challenged a No Camping Ordinance for 5 years that criminalized the homeless for their economic circumstances by fining them $500 for sleeping outdoors. House the Homeless posed the question: Jail the homeless or job train them?
When Bergstrom Air Base was repurposed to become an airport, I tried to activate the McKinney Act, which allows federal property that is no longer in use or underutilized to be used for people experiencing homelessness. Again, in spite of a law to support my efforts, the hospital that worked for the military was deemed unsuitable for the homeless.
Do you know the primary cause of homelessness is the minimum wage? According to the US Conference of Mayors, a person working 40 hours a week, at a minimum wage of $7.25, doesn’t have enough money to afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.
Again, “the problem points to the solution.” Looking Up At The Bottom Line offers the solution: The Universal Living Wage (ULW). The ULW adjusts the federal minimum wage, and indexes it to the local cost of housing throughout the US. By doing so, any person who works 40 hours a week is able to afford basic rental housing (including utilities) along with food and clothing.
Please buy my book and let everyone know that there is an answer to economic homelessness. Enactment of the Universal Living Wage will conservatively end economic homelessness for over 1,000,000 people and prevent economic homelessness for all 10.1 million minimum wage workers.
It starts with purchasing Looking Up At The Bottom Line. We encourage you to purchase a copy for your local library or shelter — vital resources for the economic homeless.
Thanks for buying my book and for being a part of ending economic homelessness.